Improving teacher effectiveness is no simple task. Whether a part of a formal evaluation system or for formative feedback, looking at student growth data can be a valuable part of the development process for teachers and administrators. Lubbock Independent School District (Lubbock ISD) uses SAS® EVAAS to improve teaching and learning by promoting self-reflection and aiding instructional and administrative decision-making.
This is the first of three blogs inspired by feedback from teachers, school and district administrators, highlighting how EVAAS is helping Lubbock ISD educators do a better job at the most important job of teaching Texas’ children.
Keeping a close eye on student growth data is particularly important if a school district is adapting to rapidly changing student populations. Lubbock ISD has experienced large demographic shifts the past decade. The population of Hispanic and African-American students has increased to a majority, and the Anglo population has decreased to 30.6%. There has been an 11% increase in students living in poverty, bringing the total to 65.3%.
These shifts precipitated a focus on meeting the unique needs of all students, whether low, middle, or high achieving. In 2009, Lubbock ISD joined a group of 10 Texas districts, which has grown to 23, using EVAASfor value-added reporting
This first post will focus on the work of two remarkable Texas teachers.
For teachers, small group focus yields big growth for struggling students
Robin Fulbright spent 22 years teaching 5th grade math at Murfee Elementary School before joining the professional development department at Lubbock ISD’s central office. Ms. Fulbright’s former principal called her, “the most amazing teacher that you’ll ever talk to. She is some kind of awesome and she has incredible, incredible value-added scores.” Ms. Fulbright attributes these results to strategic small group creation and instruction.
“My teammates and I were fairly meticulous in gathering data from EVAAS, looking at STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) test scores from the previous year, and having conversations with each child’s parents and previous teachers…We would wrap all that together early in September and would use that to make some small group plans. We shared our children equally to provide extra support in reading, math, and science, our three priority subjects. We divided up our small group instructional time. We would have different shared instruction happening in all three classrooms. We would then use our formative assessment data and our six week tests to move children who needed more support into those small groups. Children who were showing mastery and growth would move out. It was very flexible all year long.”
The Texas Education Agency is now piloting a version of EVAAS called TxVAAS as a part of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). Since Ms. Fulbright has voluntarily used EVAAS to inform her practice for four years, she has encouragement to share with those who may be unfamiliar with value-added information.
“I (historically) had the highest STAAR scores in the district for my grade and subject, while teaching advanced Level 3 students. But last year, my value-added scores were not as high as previous years; not as strong as I would have liked them to be. My students’ STAAR test scores remained awesome though. I would not have known my children didn’t make the projected growth as high as I would have expected or liked without the value-added reports. (EVAAS) caused me to pause and reflect on what I could have done differently or would do in the future. I trust the process. Did I really pull out my small groups like I should have? Could I have used that time more effectively? Did I neglect my higher achieving group and worry more about my lower-end group? That reflection is the key to growing and improving.”
Michelle Watts is a 13-year English Language Arts teacher at Hutchinson Middle School, a high-performing, culturally diverse arts magnet school. Four years ago, Ms. Watts “was completely blown away” with her EVAAS data. She thought she had been more effective in growing her struggling learners. In reality, she demonstrated greater effectiveness with middle and high achieving students. This information influenced instructional changes the next school year. She added after-school tutoring to serve those kids who needed more practice but also made changes to her in-class delivery.
“I use different wording. Sometimes I simplify what I’m saying or speak more slowly. These are small technical adjustments that can make a difference in the way that I approach those students. Because it’s not that they can’t learn it, it may be that I’m just going too fast for them or using words they’re unfamiliar with.”
Ms. Watts hones her craft in planning for incoming groups of students who have similar academic profiles to the students reflected in her most recent EVAAS reports. She repeats the practices that were successful with certain groups of students and can improve on others that may have missed the mark in growing particular subgroups.
“What EVAAS did for us was provide that starting point, a jumping off place to begin my work with students…[It also] validated what we were doing so we could move forward and get better at it. I know I’m not the best teacher on the planet, but I know I’m good at what I do, I love what I do, and I love the kids. But when we got this tool I could say, ‘I worked my tail off and this proves it.’ That makes me feel like I’m making a difference.”
Come back Monday to read how two Lubbock principals are using EVAAS to put teachers where they and their students can have the most success.